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Perhaps in no other play by Shakespeare is the setting so vital an element (an argument could be made for Macbeth or Lear) as Midsummer Night’s Dream, because the entire play is about the several “worlds” of the characters and their intertwining. First, the rustics’ world of urban working conditions is contrasted to the privileged royal world of the engaged couple, Theseus and Hippolyta. Then the natural forest world, which is also divided into the “real” forest where humans can sleep, and the fantasy world of Oberon and Titania, Puck, fairies, etc. What ties all the settings together is, of course, Love (signified by Cupid’s arrow in the field of flowers, making it magical). The entire plot(s) centers on how these settings fold into each other – the rustics rehearsing in the natural forest, the earth-bound lovers resting from their pursuits in the forest, the fairies disputing over the boy from some far-off setting, etc. Without the detailed settings, the play’s plot would not proceed, much less flourish. It would be interesting and enlightening to plot the juxtapositions of settings in relation to the character development. At the base of the play, reflected in the title, is the universal idea that "Life is a dream” and that the line between “reality” and fantasy is a thin one, crossed every day, especially by lovers, whose vision of their loved one is largely generated by fantasy rather than reality. When we learn that the fairy royalty is also enamored of the real-world royalty, the settings and the plot(s) come full circle. That Shakespeare begins the play with the highest social order, Athens’ royalty, brings all the other settings into a “Great Chain of Being” configuration, a notion extremely popular in Shakespeare’s time.
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